Pan Seared Cod

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This easy Pan Seared Cod is a delicious and healthy way to shake up your weeknight dinners. Made in less than 15 minutes, this easy weeknight dinner tastes like a restaurant dish but is easy enough for any cook to make at home.


Many people are intimidated by cooking fish at home, but pan searing fish is an easy technique everyone can master. In just 15 minutes, you can make these crispy, flaky pan seared cod filets.

When it comes to quick and healthy dinners, fish is a great option. While there are many types of fish, cod is a stand-out in my book. It’s beyond easy to cook and has a mild flavor that brilliantly adapts to any kind of marinade or seasoning blend. We also love this pan seared salmon and tilapia for an easy fish dinner.

Because this dish is so versatile, it can be served in tons of different ways. Looking for a light lunch? Use this pan seared fish to top off your favorite salads. Craving a unique and healthy dinner? Serve the cooked cod wrapped in corn tortillas to make vibrant fish tacos. Seriously, the options are endless.

Looking to make a fancy fish dinner? Make this easy seared cod with the lemon garlic pan sauce included in the recipe.

One of my favorite ways to serve this healthy cod dish is with a bowl of whole grains and cooked veggies. At the moment, I’m loving it with roasted vegetables and cilantro lime quinoa. That being said, you can pair this tasty fish dish with just about anything, so feel free to get creative!

Seared cod with a crispy exterior served on a plate with lemon, capers, and parsley.

Key Ingredients

To make this healthy garlic lemon cod, you will need the following key ingredients:

  • Cod: I’m not kidding when I say cod is one of the easiest (and most affordable) kinds of fish to cook. It has a very mild, milky flavor that makes a wonderful base for our spice rub. If you can’t find cod, swap in another mild white fish like haddock, pollack, rockfish, or tilapia.
  • Flour: This is the key to developing a really delicious crust on the outside of our fish. I like to use whole wheat flour, however regular all-purpose flour will work fine as well.
  • Spices: You will need paprika, Italian seasoning, cumin, salt, and pepper. Feel free to swap out the paprika for smoked paprika if you want to give your fish a smokier flavor.
  • Butter. A little butter goes a long way in adding to the richness of this incredible dish. Feel free to swap it out for olive oil or dairy-free butter, if needed.

Lemon Garlic Pan Sauce

This pan sauce is optional but a great way to take this dish to the next level. Many times I make this easy white wine sauce on the side.

  • Garlic: This is a garlicky pan sauce. Adjust the amount of garlic to suit your needs.
  • Dry white wine: This forms the base of the delicious sauce that gets drizzled over the fish, so make sure to pick a wine that you actually like. Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are commonly used as cooking wines. Chicken broth can be swapped as well.
  • Capers. These are totally optional, but I find that they really enhance the dish by adding a briny taste to balance out the richer flavors.
  • Lemon: Lemon and fish are a classic pairing. If you don’t end up making the pan sauce, I recommend serving the cod with fresh lemon juice.

Tips for Make Perfectly Seared Cod

Want to make the best pan seared cod ever? Here are some of my top tips and tricks to help make that happen:

  • Dry your filets. This is the key to successfully pan-searing your fish! Make sure they are completely dry before seasoning and cooking them.
  • Get the pan hot. A hot skillet is essential in making sure your fish gets a nice sear and doesn’t stick.
  • Let it cook. I know how tempting it can be to move your fish around the skillet, but this is the time to practice self control. Once you’ve placed your cod in the skillet, don’t touch it (at all!) until it’s time to flip it over.
  • Don’t worry if your cod breaks apart. With such a delicate, flaky fish, this can sometimes happen if you try to flip it or remove it from the pan too quickly. I promise, it will taste just as fantastic.

Side Dish Ideas

This delicious cod dish makes for a quick and easy way to add lean protein to your meals. All you have to do is pair this fish with your favorite veggie or grain and some greens, then you’ve got a delicious and healthy meal.

If you’re in need of some inspiration, here are a few of my favorite dishes to serve with pan seared cod:

Cod filets that are pan seared with spices served with capers, garlic, lemon, and parsley.

How to Store Leftover Cod

When it comes to make-ahead meals, people don’t typically think of fish. However, this healthy fish recipe is wonderful for meal prep! I love making several servings to keep on hand for quick and easy lunches or dinners.

To store leftovers, simply let them cool before sealing them in an airtight storage bag or container. Then, store your leftover fish in one of two ways:

  • In the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
  • In the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about this healthy fish recipe:

While I always say fresh is best, you can absolutely use frozen cod if that’s what you have available! Just make sure to let it thaw in the fridge overnight before cooking it. To quickly thaw fish, you can place it in a sealed bag, then put the bag into a bowl of cool water for about an hour. Then pat it dry with paper towels before cooking.

It is best not to cook fish from frozen since the outside will overcook and get rubbery before the interior is cooked through. Always defrost it first. 

Cod will turn opaque and flaky when it is finished cooking, which usually takes about 4 minutes on each side. Cod is done when it flakes easily with a fork. 

There are three things that help cod to stay together when it is cooked in a pan.

  • Make sure the pan is hot and there is enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. This helps a crust to form on the fish that holds it together when it is flipped.
  • Use a fish spatula to flip the fish. This thin, metal spatula is more delicate and won't break the fish fillet when you start to flip it. 
  • Add a light coating of flour or breadcrumbs to help the crust form. Coating the fish lightly in flour also helps it to stay together when it is cooked. 
Cod fish that is pan seared with spiced and served with white wine sauce and capers.
The Recipe
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Pan Seared Cod

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  • 1.5 lbs cod (thick cut filets, 4 filets)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (more if needed)
  • 1 tbsp butter

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Pat the fish dry using paper towels.

Cod fish filets on a plate with flour on the side.

In a shallow dish, combine the flour, sweet paprika, Italian seasoning, salt, cumin, and pepper. Dredge the fish in the flour on both sides so it is lightly coated.

Cod fish being dredged in flour and spices.

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Once the oil is shimmering, add the fish. Cook for 4-6 minutes until the fish is nicely browned and easily releases from the pan. Flip and cook on the other side for 4-6 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned.

Cod being pan seared in a hot skillet.

Ingredients for 4 servings: 1 tbsp butter, 2-4 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp capers (optional), 1/2 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth), 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Once the fish is cooked, add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic and capers to the pan. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the ljuice of 1 lemon and parsley. Serve over fish.

White wine pan sauce with capers and garlic in a skillet.
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1 filet
Amount Per Serving
Calories 240
Calories from Fat 59
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
Saturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 112mg
Sodium 672mg
Total Carbohydrate 9g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 0g
Protein 36g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Pan Seared Cod
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February 20, 2023 - 04:03
Add a Rating:
Going to make this for dinner tonight, it looks delicious! One question - I can't see in the recipe where you say how much lemon to use in the sauce. Am I missing it?

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March 28, 2023 - 16:37
The pan sauce calls for 1 lemon if you decide to make it.
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